Anderson .Paak raised a fist earlier this year and crystalised our moment in history with the most powerful track of 2020: Lockdown. Two weeks ago, he returned with JEWELZ. It’s a fun track, the slapping bass and vocoder produce a feel that would’ve allowed it to comfortably slip into a playlist for the summer we never had. JEWELZ is contrasted by my next pick, I’ve Made Up My Mind. It’s a sombre cover of a country gospel track by David Rich put together by three titans of folk: Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Alasdair Roberts. The song is transformed by the melancholy imbued by Roberts' fiddle. Prince Billy references Christ in harmonious vocals that are punctuated by Callahan’s spoken testimonies. This song is part of a continuing series being put out by Callahan and Prince Billy on Drag City Records, so keep your eyes peeled for more!
Every musician has been sabotaged by this dumb pandemic, but Frances Quinlan joins the likes of Baxter Dury who was in the process of touring brilliant new material when the world fell apart. She released her solo album Likewise right before the pandemic hit and only had a few months to show it off to us. Normally accompanied by her bandmates in the form of Hop Along, I watched her perform a few songs at Rough Trade, and she hit it out of the park. Her voice is a force to be reckoned with, a contained energy that channels itself through her lyrics like electricity through a wire. Occasionally, it explodes in an illuminating way, paralysing you in the process. Her performances at NPR Tiny Desk Concert and Paste Studio NYC from March are a beautiful demonstration of this.
Fortunately for us, Quinlan appears on the latest project of Canadian producer, Ryan Hemsworth: Quarter-Life Crisis. The track, Postcard from Spain, features a chugging guitar and bassy synths that provide a fantastic backdrop for Quinlan to build towards the chorus at which point the song becomes an anthem. It’s reminiscent of one of the best songs from Likewise and one of my favourite songs from this year, Now That I’m Back. Postcard from Spain is part of Hemsworth’s larger project that is slated for a December 4th release date. He released a song, Keep Touch, earlier this year. It features serene saxophone-work by BadBadNotGood’s Leland Whitty. If Hemsworth’s collaborations so far are anything to go by, then Quarter-Life Crisis is going to be a parting kiss on the cheek of a year that doesn’t deserve any affection.